The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary

The Fred Factor: How Passion in Your Work and Life Can Turn the Ordinary

In his powerful new book The Fred Factor, motivational speaker Mark Sanborn recounts the true story of Fred, the mail carrier who passionately loves his job and who genuinely cares about the people he serves. Because of that, he is constantly going the extra mile handling the mail – and sometimes watching over the houses – of the people on his route, treating everyone he meets as a friend. Where others might see delivering mail as monotonous drudgery, Fred sees an opportunity to make a difference in the lives of those he serves.

We’ve all encountered people like Fred in our lives. In The Fred Factor, Mark Sanborn illuminates the simple steps each of us can take to transform our own lives from the ordinary – into the extraordinary. Sanborn, through stories about Fred and others like him, reveals the four basic principles that will help us bring fresh energy and creativity to our life and work: how to make a real difference everyday, how to become more successful by building strong relationships, how to create real value for others without spending a penny, and how to constantly reinvent yourself.

By following these principles, and by learning from and teaching other “Freds,” you, too, can excel in your career and make your life extraordinary. As Mark Sanborn makes clear, each of us has the potential be a Fred. The Fred Factor shows you how.

Seize the chance to be extraordinary.

Who has made the biggest difference in your life? Whose words and actions have uplifted and motivated you to excel? Chances are it was someone like Fred the postman–so outstanding in his service that Mark Sanborn realized this mail carrier could be an example for any person wanting to be extraordinary.

The “Fred factor” is summarized by four principles that will release fresh energy, enthusiasm, and creativity in your career and life:

  • Make a Difference
  • Build Relationships
  • Create Value
  • Reinvent Yourself

You, too, can apply The Fred Factor to enrich the lives of customers, co-workers, friends, and family members, as well as reach new levels of personal success yourself. Sanborn also shows how to discover and develop other “Freds.
Why not become a “Fred” yourself? You will turn the ordinary moments of life into extraordinary opportunities to make a difference in the world.


The Fred Factor is a powerful, poignant parable of success. It’s about going the extra mile and always doing more than is expected. It is revolutionary, yet simple. It is life changing.

The First Fred:

When Mark Sanborn, our author, bought his first house, he moved in, after a few hours, his doorbell rang. There was a young man who introduced himself as “Fred”, the mailman, he delivered him his mail and then asked him about his job to which Sanborn answered that he was a professional speaker, “Oh, so you travel a lot then?”, said Fred, Sanborn told him that he was away most days of the year.
When Fred learned that, he told him that he should send him his schedule so that he would deliver his mail only when he’s at home. If he wasn’t, he’d just hold on to it until Sanborn comes back, Sanborn was amazed, but he politely refused because he didn’t want Fred to go through all that trouble and he asked him to just put the mail in his mailbox when he’s away.

But, Fred refused, and he told him that thieves often look for mailboxes that are full of mail because that’s when they know that the owner of the house is away, so Fred suggested putting mail in the box as long as he could close it, and if it got too full, he’d start putting the mail between Sanborn’s front door and the screen door so that no one would be able to see it, and if that got too full, he’d just hold on to the rest of the mail until Sanborn comes back, Sanborn was surprised with the amount of talent that young Fred had, he agreed to his suggestion, after all, Fred was the mail professional here.

One time when he came back to his house after a trip, he noticed that his front door mat was gone, he was surprised because who would even steal a doormat, but when he looked around he found his doormat on the side, and when he lifted it, he found a small package for him, when he asked Fred about it, Fred told him that when he was gone, the US mail system accidentally delivered a package that was meant for him to another house, so when Fred was passing by all the houses he noticed that and he took it and delivered it to Sanborn’s house and then hid it under the doormat to avoid it being taken by thieves!

Sanborn was really surprised this time, and from that moment on, he decided that he would use Fred as an example in his speeches whenever he travels, people really got inspired by Fred’s story and kept sending Sanborn a lot of messages about how Fred inspired them, Sanborn told Fred about how he’s inspiring people, and it made Fred happy.
The thing is, anyone can be a Fred, even you, my dear reader, want to learn how? Let’s move to the next chapter.

The Fred Principles:

Principle I: Everyone Makes a Difference:
No matter how large or insignificant an organization is, one employee can actually make a difference, either by doing something good, doing something bad, or not doing anything at all, Fred understood that his job was not only to deliver mail, he understood that he could have an effect on his clients, he made their day much more enjoyable!

Politicians have always told us that work gives people dignity, and that’s partly true, whatever you do is an important aspect of your life that without it you’re not complete, but the thing here is that this sentence is just half of the truth, the whole truth is that people also give work dignity, there are no unimportant jobs, there are only people who feel that they’re unimportant while doing these jobs.
Principle II: Success is Built on Relationships:

Sanborn spent all his life getting his mail in his mailbox, he got what he paid for, nothing more, nothing less, but he met Fred, Fred’s service was much better, for many reasons actually but the most important one is that Fred put in the effort to know Sanborn and adapt to his needs, Fred made his service personal, and that’s what you should do too if you want to become a “Fred”, you need to know that to be a successful leader, you need to know that your employees are humans, and for a technology to become successful, it needs to recognize that its users are humans, and an employee succeeds when he knows that his customers are humans.

Principle III: You Must Continually Create Value for Others, and It Doesn’t Have to Cost a Penny:
Stop complaining that you don’t have enough money, training or resources in general; it’s an excuse to stop yourself from succeeding, look at Fred, please tell me what resources did Fred have? Nothing! Just his blue uniform and a bag full of mail, that’s all the resources he had yet he managed to get creative and make something out of himself.

The key here is to outsmart your competitors, not outspend them.
Don’t worry about being unemployed as a result of downsizing that most companies do now, instead, focus on being employable instead of unemployed, and about being employable, the best thing you have to do is to have enough skill for employers to search for you, and do you know what the most important skill an employer should have is? It’s the ability to create value out of nothing.
Principle IV: You Can Reinvent Yourself Regularly:

Think about this, if Fred could put so much originality in delivering mail, how much do you think you can do in whatever job you’re in? The answer is A LOT.
Sanborn believes that you can put just as much creativity and imagination in your job as Fred, or even more, no matter what your work is, every single morning you wake up, you have the choice to do whatever you want and be whoever you want to be, and that’s what Sanborn called The Fred Factor.

Fred Sightings:

One day, Sanborn was driving to a Starbucks to get his favorite coffee, he bought it and then realized that he has a problem, his car used manual transmission, which meant that he would need both hands to drive, one on the wheel and the other on the gear, so, he decided to put his coffee down in the cup holder until he could shift to a higher gear, he thought that the chance of his coffee spilling was so small, turns out they weren’t that small, his coffee spilt on his light blue jeans when he reached the airport,
he tried to wash the stained part and then dry it with a hairdryer, but it still looked awful, so once he checked in his hotel at the airport, he called for room service, a woman came, and he told her that these jeans were the only jeans he had at that time and that he would have to wear them all the time during his trip, so he asked if it was possible to clean them and get that stain out.

The woman told him that unfortunately, they had no laundry room for guests, and even the staff who washed the linens were gone at that time, but she offered to take his pants to her house, wash them and then bring them back to him Next Day, Sanborn agreed, and the next day the woman gave him back his jeans, perfectly cleaned and ironed, unfortunately, Sanborn forgot to get her name, but he wrote a grateful letter about her to the hotel administration, however, even though he forgot her name, he realized that what he should call her, a Fred, he realized that everywhere he goes there are “Freds”, as well as potential “Freds”.
One day, Sanborn was traveling back to San Francisco, on the airplane, the flight attendant was definitely a Fred, just before landing, the Fred flight attendant said the following:

“If you’re having a hard time getting your ears to pop, I suggest you yawn widely, and if you are having a hard time yawning, ask me, and I’ll tell you about my love life, and now, unless the person next to you has beaten me to it, let me be the first to welcome you to San Francisco, you’ll notice that the airport buildings are in the distance. We don’t land at the terminal because it scares the heck out of the people inside.
That’s why we land way out here. That means we’ll need to taxi, so please don’t stand up until we are parked at the gate, and the seat-belt sign has been turned off, my final hope is that when you leave the aeroplane, you’ll do so with a big smile on your face that way the people outside will wonder just what it is we do up here in the friendly skies.”

This is what that Fred did, she did her job, but also took risks and had fun, and consequently, her passengers, or I would rather call them her clients, had fun too!

Be a Fred!
Everyone Makes a Difference:

What do you want? Do you want to enjoy your work or be miserable at it? It’s your choice really, do you want to be your true self, or would you rather hide the real you?
Did you know that it’s actually much harder to be miserable, negative and insincere than it is to be happy, positive, and genuine?

Here’s the answer, whatever good you do in life, if you’re expecting someone to thank you or praise you for it, then it might never come, you should do that good thing just for the sake of doing it, doing it should be your reward, and that way, whether you get praise from other people would not matter at all.
So, to be a Fred, you need to make a difference, and the truth is, everybody is doing it without even noticing, however, there are three essential strategies that can help you along the way of making a difference.
Strategy 1: Identify when you’ll make a difference.

At every single opportunity that comes your way.
Strategy 2: Choose your target audience.
Strategy 3: Be the difference.
You need to realize that to be a Fred, and you need to be the person who begins the cycle of Freds, once you know the difference that needs to be made, it’s time for you to be the difference-maker.
Success is built on relationships:
Improving your relationships at home and at work is the first step on your way to become a Fred, Sanborn gathered a few principles that can definitely help you in improving your relationships:
1)    Be real: Don’t try too hard to impress your customers or your friends or even your family, just be yourself; being yourself is unique itself.
2)    Be interested, not just interesting, and listen more: When you express how much you’re willing to do just to get to know the person in front of you or help him in any way, people get attracted and attached to you, it basically increases the value of service to them.
3)    Be empathic: You’ll definitely understand better how people feel if you can put yourself in their shoes, and that’s empathy, be thoughtful, everyone is fighting their own wars.
4)    Be honest: Never promise something that you know you can’t do, don’t make empty promises, and simply just say what you actually can do.
5)    Be helpful and prompt: Simply holding the door open for people coming after you, or simply sticking to your promised schedule actually make a huge difference in building good relationships.

Constantly create value for others.

Freds always either add value to the work they do or create a value from scratch, there was once a very famous chef who was asked about the secret behind his success, he simply answered that whatever food he serves, he makes sure that it’s the best anyone would ever eat, if he’s just going to serve french fries, he made sure that it was the best french fries in the whole world.
Freds are truly talented when it comes to taking something ordinary and turning it into something special; in other words, turning iron into gold.
A crash course in adding value:

1.    Tell the truth
2.    Practice personality power: Sanborn was having dinner in a restaurant, his server was actually nice, but not exceptional while paying his check, an old waiter came and asked him if he wanted anything else, and before Sanborn got out of the restaurant, the old waiter came again and put his hand on Sanborn’s shoulder and told him “It was nice having you today.”, those simple words were enough to make Sanborn’s day and ensure that he would go to that restaurant again, it was the power of personality that that waiter had
3.    Attract through art: Simply add something unique and artistic to whatever you serve, something that shows the amount of effort you put in it.
4.    Meet needs in advance: Let’s imagine a scenario where your neighbours decided to go on a vacation, and you knew it beforehand, why not offer them to take care of their plants and water them or pickup their mail while they’re gone?
5.    Add “Good stuff”: There are multiple things that you can add to whatever product you serve that are guaranteed to add value to it, for example:A)    Enjoyment.
B)    Enthusiasm.
C)    Humour.
6.    Remove the “Bad Stuff” out of the equation: Some things can really ruin your attempt to become a Fred, for example:
A)    Making people wait.
B)    Defects & mistakes.
C)    Frustration & disappointment.

Reinvent Yourself Regularly:
Yes, it’s true that not all change is good. However, it’s certain that staying the same is not good either, Freds are different from you in the fact that they know that they wake up every day knowing that they have the ability to reinvent themselves, they don’t give a care in the world about what happened yesterday, today is a new day with new struggles, new challenges, but also new experiences.
Remember this, the more you learn, the more you’re going to have to share, the more Fred you become, in short words, be a sponge for new information, absorb as much as you can, you have nothing to lose but everything to gain!

Where is Fred today?

You’re probably now wondering where is the original Fred now, what is he doing with his life?
Well, Fred is now doing his exceptional job of delivering mail in Denver, and recently, the U.S. Postal Service saw how much of an effort Fred was making and made a special ceremony for him, a local tv station was there to cover the ceremony.

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